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Travel guide Port Fairy

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Port Fairy
  • Port Fairy
  • Folk festival
  • Folk Festival markets
  • Bluestone Lighthouse

This fascinating town bears many reminders of its colonial past, including many white washed cottages, grand buildings, boarding houses and inns.  Yet this is also a thoroughly modern port, home to one of the largest fishing fleets in Victoria and a great stopover for the recreational sailor.

Port Fairy is located on the eastern headland of Portland Bay and has a sheltered harbour, which features an excellent wharf walk.  It lies 290 kilometres west of Melbourne on the spectacular Great Ocean Road.  This has been a maritime township since its establishment, with a whaling station set up on the island at the mouth of the Moyne River in 1835.

Today it is a port that caters well to tourists, lovers of folk music (with a festival held in March of each year) and of course, sailors.  Visiting cruising yachts are welcome to join the Saturday race series, which commences on 28 October.  The early races can be fairly small as many of the members are farmers who are busy with harvest at this time of the year, but later in the season the fleet usually numbers around 7.

Race fees are low enough to encourage active participation (around $10 or so) and racing starts at 1.30pm Saturdays.  Boats should be at the club by 12.30pm and you can just turn up to race without booking.  Those keen for more information on the races can write to the Port Fairy Yacht Club at Box 57, Port Fairy, Vic, 3284.  The club has showers and a bar, and there are often BBQs held after the races.

The Port Manager is Max Dumesny and he can contacted on (03) 5568 1108 or 0408 529 190.  Max says that while the port isn’t really set up for visiting cruisers at this stage and there are no courtesy moorings, if you give him a call before you get into port he will usually manage to find a berth.  For those who can’t ring before arrival, the best thing is to tie up at the unloading berth at King George Wharf (which is mainly used by commercial fishing vessels and is on the same side of the Moyne River as the town) and then give him a call.  You must remain with your vessel if you tie up at the unloading wharf.

Max’s office is on the other side of the river at the Port Fairy Slipway.  The slipway has shower, toilet and laundry facilities available for use by visiting cruisers.  Access to these facilities is included in the $15 a day charge, but there is no power or water available for visiting boats.  Where possible Max will accommodate visitors at the ramp jetty near the slipway – note that the maximum draft at both the boat ramp jetty and the slipway jetty is approximately 2 metres.  There is a marina further upstream but it does not cater to visiting cruisers and the river becomes very shallow beyond the marina.

There are plans to build a card-operated refuelling station on the waterfront in 2008, but currently the only option for refuelling is a service station a short distance away.  Many of the wharves and jetties are currently being re-built and should offer better facilities upon completion.  If you need to stock up on groceries there is a supermarket near King George Wharf and many fine restaurants in the town.  Oh, and lovers of timber vessels should note that in January each year, as part of the Moyneyana Festival, the Port Fairy Wooden and Classic Boat Society holds its annual parade.

So, if you are lucky enough to drop anchor in Port Fairy, make sure that you have time to see all that this historic township has to offer.  The natural harbour at the mouth of the Moyne River was a favourite hunting port for the Bass Strait whalers and sealers and their zeal saw the southern right whale hunted close to extinction.  It is also a tiny touch of Ireland and was named Belfast for a brief period, reflecting the heritage of the Irish immigrants who arrived seeking a new life away from the potato famine.

However it is now a favourite tourist destination of the region and has many historic walking trails that feature the Georgian-style merchant homes and grand public buildings.  There is a scenic 400m walk to the eastern tip of Griffiths Island, leading to the bluestone lighthouse which has stood guard over the rugged rocky shore and Southern Ocean since 1859.  There is also a mutton bird (or shearwater) rookery on the island and every evening at dusk from September until April the birds fly in to nest.  There is a viewing platform so visitors can enjoy this sight without disturbing the birds.

There are many fine restaurants in Port Fairy and they make the most of the regular catch of crayfish, abalone and other seafood that is unloaded at the docks.  Visit the boutiques, antique shops and art & craft outlets, enjoy a beer in one of the great pubs and make plans for some of the myriad other activities in the area.

Port Fairy Golf Club is a highly regarded course set on the ocean’s edge with spectacular views from the greens and fairways, and welcomes visitors.  Tower Hill State Game Reserve is Victoria’s first national park and is only 14 km from Port Fairy.  It has many beautiful walking tracks and lovely spots to stop for a picnic or BBQ.

For a contrast from the swimming beaches and bays in Port Fairy, a short drive to the Crags (only 12km away) will give you sweeping views of the rugged coastline and out to Julia Percy Island, which is one of the largest seal colonies in southern Australia.  If you aren’t lucky enough to arrive in Port Fairy in your own vessel, don’t despair!  You can take a guided fishing trip, a whale watching tour in winter, or a four-hour cruise to Julia Percy Island.

Port Fairy is a magical place – one with a rich maritime history that is just as relevant today and also a great setting off point for the many wonders to be found along the spectacular Great Ocean Road.  Visit TakeABreak for some great accommodation options in the Port Fairy region.

About the Author

Lisa Monk is a marketing communications writer with a diverse background that includes experience in travel, hotel, finance, public relations and advertising. She has worked with Club Med, the Holiday Inn group and on a number of other travel projects on a freelance basis. Lisa has travelled throughout Asia Pacific, North America and Great Britain.

Lisa now works with TakeABreak.com.au as editor of the Holiday Inspirations newsletter and other publications. She lives in Sydney with her husband Andy, and sons Joseph and Nicholas.

About the author
Find out more about Lisa at http://bit.ly/h_experts

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  Great helpful article.We intend to do the great ocean rd soon but are ha ving difficulty obtaining a really good detailed map.Alf hoyle New Zealand.
Posted on Jun 18 2010 at 16:00

  Thanks Lisa, for the helpful article. Will be travelling along GOR on 12th Aug 2010 and will definitely stop by Port Fairy.
Posted on Jun 18 2010 at 17:21

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